Title: Player vs Player
Author: Amelia C. Gormley
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 282 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Pushing for change can be dangerous when change starts pushing back.
Video game writer Niles River loves the work he does at Third Wave Studios: creating games with mass appeal that feature women, people of color, and LGBTQ characters. To make his job even better, his best friend is his boss, and his twin brother works beside him. And they mostly agree that being on the forefront of social change is worth dealing with trollish vitriol—Niles is more worried about his clingy ex and their closeted intern’s crush on his brother than he is about internet harassment.
But now the bodies on the ground are no longer virtual, and someone’s started hand-delivering threats to Niles’s door. The vendetta against Third Wave has escalated, and to make matters worse, the investigating detective is an old flame who left Niles heartbroken for a life in the closet.
No change happens without pain, but can Niles justify continuing on with Third Wave when the cost is the blood of others? If he does, the last scene he writes may be his own death.
Review: Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod. I LOVE Amelia C. Gormley’s brain! Niles River and his twin brother Jordan River work together at Third Wave Studios, where they create first person player video games. Stop for a moment and re-read the first eight words of the previous sentence. I’ll wait. I KNOW, right? The twins were conceived while their parents were volunteering for Doctors Without Borders, and they believed the babies should me named to commemorate the trip on which they were conceived.
Third Wave is owned by a Latina woman (who is also Niles’s best friend), whose mission is to make games more representative of the changing face of society. Until now, gamers have been mostly white cis heterosexual men. Anyone who didn’t fit into that mold was shunned, bullied, or worse. So if a woman or a gay man wanted to play in the interactive games, she or he needed to pretend to be something they weren’t. Rosie’s goal is to include characters in her games that are strong, independent women, gay men involved in relationships, as well as people with brown and black and yellow skin. While playing the games, the player character makes different choices which determine where the game will take them and the characters created by Third Wave.
Suffice to say that Third Wave has had more than its share of hate mail and threats of violence, rape, and even death. When at a con, Niles and Rosie witness the physical harassment the cosplayers dressed as some of their more controversial characters suffer. It makes them both sick to think that they play even a small part in the suffering these people are going through. It also makes them more determined than ever to make their games as inclusive as possible.
While the Third Wave team is used to online and email harassment, a line is crossed when a threatening letter is hand-delivered to Niles’s house. When Rosie and Jordan convince him to take the letter to the police, the detective he ends up with is his closeted college lover, Tim Wyatt, who broke his heart ten years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen since. Once Tim sees the letter and the texts on Niles’s personal cell phone, he decides to open a case.
Soon, the homicides that Tim and his partner are working take them to the offices of Third Wave, and it becomes apparent that someone, or a group of people, is acting out the worst-case scenarios of the game—the terrible end that would come to the Third Wave characters if the player character made all the wrong choices throughout the game. In order to know what these outcomes are, the murderer has to have access to inside information about parts of the game that haven’t been released yet.
Player vs Player is a love story, wrapped in a murder mystery, wrapped in a social statement. Ms. Gormley has written another masterpiece. The range she shows from one book to the next is just awesome. Her in-depth knowledge of gaming and police procedure show a dedication to research before writing, and personal political and social beliefs are intelligently and clearly stated as those held by Rosie. All this comes together while she takes the reader on a curvy, twisty thrill-ride that has everything you could want: hot cops, geeks, twins with that telepathy thing they do, a hot lesbian (?) Latina boss, smart, witty dialogue, and a surprise around every corner. This is a really well written and intelligent book. I freakin’ loved it. Just don’t start it unless you have all day, ‘cause it kept me up until three a.m.
You can buy Player vs Player here: